Thoughts on “Hug an Atheist Day”

My wife keeps track of weird days and today is “Hug an atheist day” (one of many days). Now I know why she chose this one to post, but never mind that.

I haven’t been shy about saying that I am a non-believer and I’ll present some reasons below. And no, I am not going to get into classical definitions (e. g. atheism/theism is about “belief”, agnosticism/gnosticism is about knowledge, so technically I am an “agnostic atheist” as I do not accept traditional human beliefs about deities (the ones that I’ve heard of) but remain agnostic because it is possible that there might be some grand conception that I am unaware of ..or lack the intellect to comprehend ..perhaps some sentient beings elsewhere in the universe “get it right”.

But in public, I leave off the “agnostic” part as when many hear that, they think that I haven’t made up my mind about Jesus or the Abrahamic deity.
So Dear Reader, rest assured that I am painfully aware of my intellectual limitations. But when it comes to the deities most commonly worshiped in our society, I am not buying it and I refuse to lie. 🙂

So, what is with my belief?

1. Atheism is compatible with naturalism. Example: the other day, we noticed that when we washed clothes, a puddle of water would appear on the floor of the washer/dryer room. Of course, I didn’t assume that there was some devil, angel, or pixie putting the water there; I assumed that there was a physical cause! Sure enough: one joint in our washer drain had corroded and leaked; I found it by running the washer through a “rinse/spin cycle” and observing (with a pan under the joint that I suspected, given the water marks on the pipe. See how that works? Well, I just extend that principle a bit further.

What about larger issues? Well, many have claimed isolated miracles. But remember that any medical prognosis is really a stochastic forecast; after all, even 1 percent of people survive stage 5 inoperable pancreatic cancer. That is not evidence of divine intervention.

Oh, I love sports and see athletes give thanks to their deities all of the time. But I also note that every single one of these has all of the physical characteristics that one would expect of someone who is good at that sport. Now if I walk out on the field and perform at the level of those athletes (e. g. hit major league pitching, dunk a basketball, or successfully block and NFL lineman) THEN you can talk about divine intervention.

Now it is true that some concepts of deity can include naturalism; example: deism, or perhaps their deity has already met their “ration of miracles” some time ago. But such deities really do not interest me. I quote Mano Singham (a physicist at Case Western) here:

What atheists like me say to religious believers is simply the following: If the existence of your god has empirical consequences, then provide empirical evidence that supports your contention. If it has no empirical consequences whatsoever, then say so and we will not interfere with your theological and philosophical ruminations because we do not really care to speculate on the properties of what we consider to be a mythical entity.

2. Atheism is mentally healthier for me. Why? Well for one, if I thought there was some deity that could grant me favors IN THIS LIFE for being obedient enough, well, why aren’t I as smart as Steven Hawking was and why don’t I have an Olympic athlete’s athletic ability? I so related to the envious and jealous Salieri character in Amadeus (who was nothing like the real life composer, save being very good at music) who was just livid that his deity didn’t give him what he REALLY WANTED.

And if something bad happens to me…well, why shouldn’t it? I am not “owed” anything by Providence. It is unrealistic to expect the universe to make exceptions for me.

3. Atheism makes sense on philosophical grounds, at least to me. Why? Well, everything I’ve read about science shows that my location, my country, my planet, my solar system, and my galaxy are really unexceptional.

Do I really believe that we (as in humans) are that special? Why would I do that? To me, it is far more likely that early humans struggled to understand what they saw and deities is something that they conjured up.

Now I can understand why some might not want to talk about it; there is quite a bit of anti-atheist prejudice out there. But in my circle (academic, math/science) atheism is very common and “believers” tend to be those who don’t put a lot of stock in miracles and supernatural things.

And yes, I can understand how religious practices can help someone. A church gives one a community to socialize with and that has some measurable benefits. Many times, religious people get together and do good things (e. g. feeding the hungry, providing clothing, etc.) And as someone else told me: “a church is one of the few places where someone challenges you to be a better, more compassionate person”.

Private religious practice can help too. Prayer and meditation can calm the mind. Here is a summary. I happen to be a fan of yoga (at least yoga poses) as such poses really keep me physically more limber, makes my back feel better, and can leave me relaxed.

So, I am really not hostile to religion, though I understand that there ARE toxic forms which, all too often, leads people to do truly dreadful things. And it should NEVER be forced on anyone.

Please note what I did not say.

I am not an atheist because the Bible contains hilarious nonsense (example, example), is inconsistent (the way it was written, how could it NOT be?) or because it contains truly horrible things done at the bequest of its deity.
The reason I do not have this as a reason is that while the Bible makes one deity look ridiculous, there are other conceptions of deity.

I am not an atheist because of “evil in the world”. Who says that a deity has to coddle humans?

I am not an atheist because some believers are horrible people. After all, Nazi Germany had some smart scientists who were truly horrible people. The truth of a proposition is independent of the morality of those who accept it or reject it.

I am not an atheist because I am “defiant”. Defiant of what, exactly? When it comes to secular law, I am reasonably law abiding; society tends to work better that way (though I respect those who broke evil laws, such as those that established racism)

I am not an atheist because I want to smoke, drink, drug and be sexually loose. My personal habits are reasonably conservative. I do not smoke, do not drink (though I happily serve alcohol to guests that do), do not do drugs (though I am pro legalization) and, as far as sex, I am a 58 year old man with the usual physical limitations. My sexual ethics are really just basic human ethics: be honest and trustworthy, and don’t view humans solely in terms of what they can do for you or give to you.

I am an atheist because that is what makes the most sense to me, given the data that I’ve seen. That’s really it.

Workout notes usual weights (pull ups went very well; usual 5 sets of 10), no bench, but incline 10 x 135, 7 x 150, decline 7 x 170, military: 10 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 50 (dumbbell, standing), I just didn’t have the attitude to attack 55’s while seated; rows 10 x 200 (Hammer, 3 sets), usual abs, planks sucked again. (they ALWAYS do). 3 mile walk outside; saw the lovely Cassie.


June 1, 2018 Posted by | atheism, religion, social/political, walking, weight training | Leave a comment